Chicago Cubs prospects: Not always a happy ending
Sep 22, 2014; Bronx, NY, USA; New York Yankees relief pitcherRich Hill
(57) pitches against the Baltimore Orioles during the ninth inning at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
Rich Hill was drafted by the Chicago Cubs in the 2002 amateur draft in the fourth round. Hill was in the 1999 draft as well and was selected by the Cincinnati Reds but would later decide to go on to college and pitch for the Michigan Wolverines. While not a hard throwing pitcher, Hill was a very good strikeout pitcher. He relied on his command and his dangerous curve ball. He did have a fastball that would top off at in the low 90’s and a respectable change-up but his curve is what got him noticed by the Cubs management.
In the minors, Hill would find mixed success but his strikeout numbers always remained high and consistent. There was a need for another pitcher with the Cubs so with his consistency and his older age, the front office could view Hill as a good choice to call up. Hill would get that call up in 2005, at first it was thought he’d come out of the bullpen. The time in the bullpen would be short-lived, Kerry Wood would end up getting hurt which gave Hill his first chance as a starter. While he didn’t factor in the decision, Hill did pitch five innings and gave up two earned runs.
In 2006, Hill would go between the Cubs and back to the minors a few different times, making appearances when needed. Finally, in 2007 Hill would get his chance to compete for a starting job on the pitching staff. He would win one of those spots and was named the Cubs forth starter behind Carlos Zambrano, Ted Lilly, and Jason Marquis. Hill got off to a very fast start and quickly got the attention of everyone in the National League.
Early on many started to wonder if Hill was the future ace of this staff. Though he didn’t have the power pitches that most would want out of their ace, his curve ball was very special. There would be a bump in the road as the season went on with his command but he would right the ship and help the Cubs go on to win the National League Central Division.
Hill finished his 2006 campaign going 11-8 with a 3.92 earned run average and a WHIP of 1.195. Just as impressive was his 183 strikeouts, continuing to prove his was a strikeout pitcher despite not having an overpowering fastball. After a short post-season, Hill would go on to try to continue his success he had in 2007. That success would not happen with Hill in a Cubs uniform. Hill would struggle with his command. With the lack of power behind his pitches, his command was essential to be spot on.
Hill would be sent back to the minors to try to fix his mechanics or find what was wrong. Those answers were never found. The Chicago Cubs would trade Hill in 2009 to the Baltimore Orioles (notice a trend with the trades with Baltimore?) for a player-to-be-named-later which ended up being cash considerations. Since then, Hill has bounced around to several teams, never being able to find the magic he had for that short time in 2006.
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